Phillies (13-17) vs. Mariners (15-17)
7:05 p.m. on TCN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App
It's a short week for the Phillies, who were off Monday and are off again Thursday with a quick, two-game interleague series in between.
Monday's off-day had to feel better for the Phils after the heroics of Aaron Altherr and Freddy Galvis Sunday prevented them from losing for the ninth time in 10 games.
And now, the Phillies actually get to play a non-elite team.
1. Chooch returns
The big storyline surrounding this two-game series vs. Seattle is the return of Carlos Ruiz, who was traded from the Dodgers to the Mariners on Nov. 7.
Ruiz, like Chase Utley with the Dodgers, is off to a rough start. Ruiz is 3 for 26 (.115) with one extra-base hit in 13 games. He's the clear backup to Mike Zunino and that's the role the Mariners brought him in to play.
Zunino isn't faring much better than Chooch, by the way. He's 12 for 72 (.167) with no homers and 30 strikeouts.
Ruiz has started just two of the Mariners' last six games, both of them over the weekend. He went 0 for 4 in the pair of starts.
But Seattle does figure to play him in at least one of these games, allowing for possibly one final send-off from Phillies fans.
Tonight's Mariners starter, Ariel Miranda, has been paired with Ruiz in two of his six starts. He has a 5.06 ERA with Ruiz behind the plate and a 2.82 ERA in four games with Zunino. Obviously, that's a minuscule sample size and there are many other factors at play. But it would seem to make more sense instead to pair Ruiz Wednesday with veteran Yovani Gallardo.
Ruiz will go down as one of the most beloved Phillies ever (see story), a guy who was never about himself and constantly earned lofty praise from superstar teammates. Phillies fans loved the hard work he put in to grow into a valuable defensive catcher and game-caller and then a decent hitter. All of those clutch hits didn't hurt, either.
With Ryan Howard being released by the Braves on Monday and Ruiz and Utley (hitting .098) struggling in their age-38 seasons, it looks like 2017 will be the final hurrah for all three. Remember, too, that Jimmy Rollins was released coming out of spring training.
'Tis the end of an era indeed.
2. Confidence boost
The Phillies needed one on Sunday and they got it with their biggest comeback of the season. The Phils trailed the Nationals, 5-2, to start the eighth inning and were 1-13 when trailing at that point in the game.
You know the rest: Aaron Altherr came off the bench for a three-run homer, and Freddy Galvis ended the game two innings later with a sacrifice fly.
It further exposed the Nationals' bullpen, which should give the Phils a jolt heading into their next series with Washington this weekend.
It also gave the Phils a lift after a dismal stretch of eight losses in nine games. Monday's off-day would have been much more grim had the Phillies been swept by a Washington team playing without Bryce Harper. It would have given them six straight losses.
Instead, they have a few things to feel good about:
• Altherr continues to shine; he's their best hitter right now and should probably be batting third or fourth until he cools down.
• Hector Neris pitched two scoreless innings Sunday and looked dominant doing it. Since that Dodger Stadium disaster, Neris has pitched four innings without a run and needed just 43 pitches total. He's turned back to his splitter and looks like 2016 Neris.
• Galvis continues to produce. His two-run double Sunday was his 60th extra-base hit since the start of 2016, which is more than Albert Pujols, Ryan Zimmerman, Buster Posey, Adam Jones, Maikel Franco, Jayson Werth, Jonathan Lucroy, Eric Hosmer, Adrian Gonzalez, Victor Martinez and Jose Bautista, among many others.
3. Eickhoff's turn
Jerad Eickhoff continues to have buzzard's luck, not only when it comes to run support but also fluky hits.
In his last start, Eickhoff was pitching very well at Wrigley Field until a pair of dinky hits - a pop-up that fell in and a softy-hit seeing-eye single between first and second - set up a run-scoring situation for the Cubs. With two outs, Eickhoff went 3-0 to Jason Heyward, who singled in a run to end his night.
Joely Rodriguez came in and allowed a two-run double to Willson Contreras and both of those runs were charged to Eickhoff, who pitched much better than his line of 5⅔ innings, four runs indicated.
Through six starts, Eickhoff is 0-3 with a 4.00 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. His strikeout rate is up from 7.6 per nine last season to 8.3, but he's also walking more batters - 3.3 per nine compared to 2.0 the last two seasons.
This could be a good night for Eickhoff, though. The Mariners have obviously never seen him and Jean Segura is their only player to face him. He's had quite a bit of success, going 4 for 5 with two walks.
Eickhoff's bread and butter is that big curveball and the M's have hit just .213 against curves this season. Seattle's most dangerous hitter, Robinson Cano, is 2 for 14 this season in at-bats ending on a curve.
4. Scouting Miranda
Miranda is a 28-year-old left-hander out of Cuba whom the Mariners acquired at last year's trade deadline from the Orioles for veteran lefty Wade Miley.
In 17 games (16 starts) with Seattle since then, Miranda is 8-4 with a 3.54 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. He's struck out 69 and walked 26 in 89 innings.
Much of Miranda's success can be attributed to the way he hides the ball. He's a long-armed lefty who brings the ball low and behind his back and releases it around his ear, giving the hitter almost no look at the ball before it's upon him.
Miranda is mostly a three-pitch pitcher with a four-seam fastball, splitter and changeup. This season, he's thrown the heater 60 percent of the time, the splitter 17 percent and the changeup 15 percent. He also has a slider he uses against lefties.
He's allowed six home runs in 33 innings this season, five away from spacious Safeco Field.
He's coming off two very good starts in a row against the Indians and Angels in which he allowed three runs in 12⅓ innings and struck out 12.
5. This and that
• The only American League team the Phillies have faced less than the Mariners is the Angels. The Phils are 4-8 all-time vs. Seattle losing four of six games at Citizens Bank Park and at Safeco Field. They've played just two series in the last 12 seasons. Their last meeting was August 2014, when Cole Hamels and Jerome Williams picked up wins and Jonathan Papelbon saved both.
• Nelson Cruz is off to another great start, hitting .319/.401/.560 with seven home runs and 28 RBIs.
• Seattle has been plagued by injuries. Currently on the DL are: starting pitchers Felix Hernandez (on the downswing), James Paxton and Drew Smyly, setup man Steve Cishek and surprising rightfielder Mitch Haniger, who got off to a hot start.
Five weeks into the season, the Mariners have already used 13 relievers.
• Altherr has reached base in 15 of his last 27 plate appearances.